Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player

Sound guides blind tennis players

 

Nowadays, having a disability does not mean that you cannot have a normal life.

In a city like London, many developments in technology and awareness have improved the quality of life for blind people.

The Paralympic Games show that the belief that people with disabilities are incapable in sport is an incorrect assumption.

Sport is a global expression of freedom and feelings. It has also become more inclusive, recognising diversity and offering the opportunity to participate to anyone and everyone.

Milan Sheth is a partially blind tennis player. He loves playing tennis and he is happy that there are now more possibilities to play for people like him. He regards tennis as a great way of exercising, being competitive and meeting his friends.

London lends a hand

He says London has become a really good place because there are more facilities and increased awareness. He points out an example related to his commuting: when he is travelling, there is an attendant who escorts and helps him to come in and out of the train.

Milan is one of the players from Metro Blind Sport - a charity that supports and runs activities for blind people enabling them to take part in different kinds of sport, such as athletics, cricket and tennis. Metro also finances their participation in championships and supports them at a competitive level.

The Tennis Foundation charity takes action to make sport centres easily accessible for disabled players, providing professional and specific coaching. Disabled people are also given the opportunity to become coaches. In addition, the charity develops an international set of rules for blind tennis.

One of the centres supported by the Tennis Foundation is The National Tennis Centre in Barnes, London. I went there to visit a group of blind players tennis players from Metro who train every Friday. It was impressive to see them running and hitting the ball without any problems.

This is also where I met Milan, who is partially blind. His sight is affected by albinism, which gives him very weak eyes muscles.

This means he can only focus on things which are a few feet in front of him. Beyond that, everything is blurred and he can only imagine what is there.

Relying on sound

When playing tennis, Milan mainly relies on his ears and on the sense of sound. He can hear when the ball is falling and coming towards him, by listening to the rattling sound that comes from inside it. This audible ball is one such adaptation made for blind tennis players.

The ball is also spongy, so it does not harm any players that it may hit and it also moves slower, giving them time to hear it.

Secondly the tennis rackets are short, with the face not too far from the hand, in order to have a clearer sense of its positioning and reflex more easily when catching the ball.

Finally, the tennis court is smaller because they use the serving line as the base line.

The rules of the game are basically unchanged. However, blind players are allowed extra bounces. If you are visually impaired you are allowed two bounces, if you are totally blind you are allowed three.

Blind tennis protocol

There is also a protocol in blind tennis, where the serving player must shout "play" or "ready" and if his or opponent is ready, they respond with "yes". Verbal communication is essential when the players cannot see.

Tennis is one of the most popular sports in England and the annual Wimbledon championships draw thousands of people to its courts or to television screens to watch the latest matches.

It is therefore also important to make the sport accessible for people who are blind, deaf or in a wheelchair.

Odette Battarel, a second level coach of blind tennis and visually impaired herself, says: "Wheelchair tennis is already in the Paralympics.

"There is a GB team and they are competing this summer at London 2012 in August. We are hoping that blind and visually impaired tennis will come to the Paralympics soon."

She adds: "We might even have the chance to have a demonstration this summer to show that it is possible for the blind and visually impaired to play tennis."

Sport is very important to the blind, but not just to stay healthy and participate in sporting activities. The main reason is because a blind person wants to feel like everyone else.

A life should not be limited because of a disability. London is a great city because it is providing good assistance and services to disabled people, fulfilling their dreams of not being discriminated or less able to enjoy life.

 

Words, images and film by Stefania Barbaglio

Visit the Lawn Tennis Association, National Tennis Centre, 100 Priory Lane,
Roehampton,
London
SW15 5JQ (020 8487 7000)
Nearest tube station: Putney
www.lta.org.uk

More articles by the author:

The luxury of fish and chips

Tailoring to a man’s needs

Wheelchair bound: The importance of feeling independent

Bookmark and Share

 

  • sight
  • sight
  • Protoss unit
  • Protoss unit
  • Zerg unit
  • Terran unit
  • Terran unit
  • Terran unit
  • Terran unit
  • Protoss unit
  • Protoss unit
  • Protoss unit
  • Protoss unit
  • Protoss unit
  • Protoss unit
  • Protoss unit
  • Protoss unit
  • Protoss unit
  • Protoss unit
  • Protoss unit
  • Protoss unit
  • Protoss unit
  • Protoss unit
  • Protoss unit
  • Protoss unit
  • Protoss unit
  • Protoss unit
  • Protoss unit
  • Protoss unit
  • Protoss unit
  • Protoss unit
  • Protoss unit
  • Protoss unit
  • Protoss unit
  • Protoss unit
  • Protoss unit
  • Protoss unit
  • Protoss unit
  • Protoss unit
  • Protoss unit
  • Protoss unit